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Product News

Bayer CropScience Introduces Good Growing Link

Bayer CropScience has launched the Good Growing Link, a web-based tracking tool powered by food safety and traceability technology company FoodLogiQ Inc. The Good Growing Link helps users identify, measure and improve their sustainability efforts, and provides a tool to merchandise these contributions to customers and other stakeholders. Bayer CropScience believes the Good Growing Link will help the entire food chain demonstrate and communicate its commitment to sustainability—starting at the farm level. “Agriculture has been and must continue to be focused on sustainability due to the link between the land and growing practices and their impact on the world around us,” says Brian Hrudka, food chain manager for Bayer CropScience. As members of the Good Growing Link online community, users can enter new data or extract existing data from other sources regarding operational inputs and practices such as water, energy and chemical usage. The tool collects that data and generates a sustainability report, or dashboard, customized for the downstream customer. Once the report is created, users can create a link directly to their own websites for public review or print to satisfy customers’ specific sustainability criteria.

New Disease Added to Quadris Label

Syngenta Canada Inc. has announced that control of black dot has been added to the Quadris fungicide label for use on potatoes. “Quadris is a well respected and well used fungicide because it delivers effective control of a multitude of challenging potato diseases,” said Eric Phillips, asset lead for Syngenta Canada. “With this label expansion to include control of black dot, potato growers now have one less disease to worry about.” Black dot can significantly impact potato production, as it can affect the plant’s vascular system, causing the plant to wilt. Below ground, it can cause severe rotting of roots, shoots and stolons, leading to early plant decline, discoloured tubers and reduced yields. Quadris is a broad-spectrum, preventative fungicide with systemic properties. Optimum disease control is obtained when Quadris is used as a protective treatment prior to disease establishment. In addition to black dot, Quadris is also registered as a foliar spray for control of early blight and late blight on potatoes.

New Resource Launched

A new resource to help researchers find ways to combat agricultural pathogens, called PhytoPath, has been launched. PhytoPath integrates genome-scale data of important plant pathogen species with literature-curated information about the phenotypes of host infection. This resource could make it easier for researchers to understand the origins of crop diseases and devise new strategies to control them. PhytoPath helps researchers make the most of the vast quantities of data produced in sequencing experiments, for example genomes, gene expression and sequence variation, by integrating them with curated information about infectious phenotypes. PhytoPath also provides several analysis tools to help researchers compare predicted gene repertoires of pathogens with similar (or dissimilar) lifestyles. PhytoPath contains the genomes of many devastating pathogens, including Phytophthora infestans, which brought about the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th Century and has re-emerged as an important biotic threat to global food security.

Business News

BASF to Concentrate Plant Biotechnology Activities

BASF has announced that it is concentrating its plant biotechnology activities on the main markets in North and South America. The company will adjust the portfolio and site footprint of its subsidiary BASF Plant Science to reflect this change. The headquarters of BASF Plant Science will be moved from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Raleigh, N. C. Research and development activities will be concentrated mainly in Raleigh, Ghent, Belgium and Berlin, Germany. Development and commercialization of all products targeted solely at cultivation in the European market will be halted. Regulatory approval processes that have already started will be continued. “There is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe—from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians. Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market,” said Stefan Marcinowski, member of the board of executive directors of BASF, responsible for plant biotechnology. “We will therefore concentrate on the attractive markets for plant biotechnology in North and South America and the growth markets in Asia.” Overall, BASF is reducing 140 positions in Europe. BASF Plant Science will halt the development and commercialization of all products that are targeted solely for cultivation in the European markets. These include genetically modified starch potatoes (Amflora, Amadea and Modena), a potato resistant to late blight, called Fortuna, as well as a late blight-resistant starch potato. To maintain all options for the potato products, BASF Plant Science will continue the regulatory approval processes for the products already started.

N.B. Potato Producers Granted More Time to Repay Advances

New Brunswick potato producers affected by cold and wet weather in 2011 will have more time to repay their cash advances under the Advance Payments Program. The Government of Canada has announced a Stay of Default until December 31, 2012 on the repayment of advances for potato producers in New Brunswick following a poor 2011 crop year. Farmers will be able to transfer their outstanding 2011 advances to the 2012 production period and avoid default. The Government of Canada will continue to pay interest on the interest-free portion of farmers’ outstanding advances until December 31, 2012. Producers who received a 2011–2012 APP advance and may be in an overpayment position should contact Potatoes New Brunswick for more information. The Advance Payments Program provides producers with a cash advance on the value of their agricultural products during a specified period. The short-term loans improve cash flow throughout the year and help crop and livestock producers meet their financial obligations and market their products when market conditions are favourable. The Stay of Default came into effect on December 22, 2011. Potato producers who received an APP advance from PNB may be eligible for the stay and should contact PNB for more details at (506) 743-3036.

Industry News

Spider Mite Genome Sequenced

An international team of researchers may have found the key to controlling a pest responsible for $1 billion in agricultural losses annually. Led by University of Western Ontario researcher Miodrag Grbic, the group has sequenced the genome of the spider mite. The mite, Tetranychus urticae, feeds on more than 1,000 different plants, including 150 of agricultural importance. The research team, which includes members from Spain, Belgium, France, Portugal, the United States, Chile, Germany and Switzerland, says insects and mites currently destroy 13 per cent of all potential crops. The study, published in the journal Nature, says the team members hope their work will lead to the ability to breed plants resistant to spider mites. It could also result in new tools for biotechnology-based pest controls, reduce the spider mite’s ability to reproduce, and put more pesticide-free food on Canadian tables. “We have discovered this creature’s gene set and more importantly, we believe we have found its Achilles heel so that we can begin development of non-pesticide, alternative pest control measures,” says Grbic. “This species is renowned for developing resistance to pesticides. Within two years of introduction, spider mites are able to overcome new pesticides.”

Solynta Shares Principle of F1 Hybrid Potato Breeding

Solynta has published proof for principle on F1 hybrid potato breeding in Potato Research. The technical and economic perspectives will enable the development of new products with combinations of useful traits for all stakeholders in the potato chain. In addition, the hybrid’s seeds are produced by crossings, rendering the production and voluminous transport of potato seed tubers redundant, as they can be replaced through direct sowing or the use of healthy mini-tubers, raised in greenhouses. Overcoming inbreeding depression by using diploid self-compatible clones should enable breeders to replace the current method of out-breeding and clonal propagation into an F1 hybrid system with true seeds. This idea is not new, but has long been considered unrealistic. Severe inbreeding depression and self-incompatibility in diploid germplasm have blocked the development of inbred lines. Back-crossing with a homozygous progenitor with the Sli gene, which inhibits gametophytic self-incompatibility, resulted in self-compatible offspring from elite material from Solynta’s diploid breeding program. Solynta has demonstrated that homozygous fixation of donor alleles is possible, with simultaneous improvement of tuber shape and tuber size grading of the recipient inbred line. These results provide proof of principle for F1 hybrid potato breeding.

Biotech Potato with Resistance to PVY

Fernando Bravo-Almonacid of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular in Buenos Aires, Argentina, together with colleagues, has developed a transgenic potato named Spunta with resistance to Potato Virus Y, and from it has also developed 100 independent candidate lines. After field testing of selected lines, the scientists were able to identify two genetically stable PVY-resistant lines, SY230 and SY233, which were further evaluated. After six years of testing, they observed that there was no or negligible PVY infection in the transgenic lines. They also observed that the agronomical characteristics and biochemical compositions of the transgenic lines are similar to the non-transgenic Spunta cultivar.

Research Project Aims to Make the Potato Biofuel-Friendly

The potato is the fourth most important staple in the world and is also a source of raw material in paper and plastic industries. Currently, the potato is being considered as a substrate for energy production in biogas plants, which would lessen the dependency on corn in producing biofuels. Initial studies by Thilo Hammann from the Julius Kuhn Institute in Germany show that optimally-adapted potato varieties can compete with corn and other substrates and can provide the highest yields of usable carbohydrates for biofuels. A three-year project supported by the Agency for Renewable Resources will be conducted by JKI, and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research to improve the breeding potential of starch potatoes to make them competitive renewable energy resources. Current pre-breeding activities involve the use of genetic association study to develop molecular markers for breeding selection for durable resistance to Phytophthora infestans and high starch content.